The corporate view
"Post-Lehman there has been much greater conservatism among corporates"
If anyone has experience of shareholder expectation associated with the accumulation of a sizeable cash pile it is David Levin, chief executive of UK-based B2B publisher United Business Media. In 2008, having undertaken a series of disposals since taking over at the firm in 2005, Levin explored a tie-up with rival Informa that would have created a £3 billion B2B powerhouse. The short-lived approach came to nothing as it immediately flushed out a rival cash bid, however, and UBM has subsequently focused on much smaller bolt-on acquisitions. "We have made over 80 acquisitions in the last six years but very few of these have been in a contested environment – we have focused on smaller private and more complex deals," explains Levin (who was chief financial officer of this magazine’s parent in the 1990s and steered its acquisition of Institutional Investor).
Levin agrees that corporates are running higher cash balances than they might have done in the past. "Post-Lehman there has been much greater conservatism among corporates," he says. "We have made a number of acquisitions but we are very cognizant of our debt ratios.